DENVER -- The Giants' decision makers have an excellent reason for remaining patient with their struggling starting pitchers:
Who's suitable to replace any of them?
The organization's top pitching prospects, such as Clayton Blackburn, Kyle Crick and Chris Stratton, are at Class A and need much more Minor League seasoning.
The alternatives at Triple-A Fresno come with question marks. The Grizzlies' most consistent starter probably has been 33-year-old Shane Loux, who's 4-1 with a 3.68 ERA. A veteran of 17 professional seasons, Loux was 1-0 with a 4.97 ERA in 19 relief appearances with the Giants last year. He allowed 32 hits in 25 1/3 innings.
Yusmeiro Petit, who also has Major League experience, might have been considered the Giants' first option in an emergency. But he's 2-3 with a 6.69 ERA. Boof Bonser has similar numbers (1-3, 5.31).
Right-hander Chris Heston and left-hander Mike Kickham, who drew plenty of attention in Spring Training as potential heirs to a rotation spot, have struggled at times in their transition from Double-A to Triple-A. Heston's 5-2 with a 5.33 ERA and a .320 opponents' batting average, while Kickham is 2-4, 4.72. Both, however, thrived against New Orleans in their most recent starts. Heston allowed three hits in seven shutout innings last Thursday; Kickham yielded an unearned run and four hits in six innings while striking out eight Saturday.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.